Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Questions (51, 63)

Brendan Smith


51. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the most recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with members of the Northern Ireland Executive on the implementation of outstanding provisions in the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35665/13]

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Niall Collins


63. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the work he has done since taking up office in 2011 to advance the adoption of an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35910/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 63 together.

The main outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement are the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the Irish Language Act.

In ongoing contacts with the British government, I continue to stress the importance of implementation of all aspects of the Agreements.

I will also continue to urge all the parties in the Assembly to engage in constructive discussion with a view to reaching agreement on the substance of a Bill of Rights. A Bill of Rights drawn up by agreement between the main parties of the Assembly could set out precisely and formally the rights upon which a shared society for Northern Ireland can be based.

I am firmly of the view that an Irish Language Act should be introduced in Northern Ireland. All parties to the Good Friday Agreement recognised the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity in Northern Ireland. In the St Andrews Agreement, the British government committed to introducing an Irish Language Act and to working with the Northern Ireland Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish Language. The question of an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland is a devolved matter and is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive. Last year the Northern Ireland Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Ms. Carál Ní Chuilín MLA launched a public consultation process on strategies for the Irish language and Ulster Scots. A summary of the responses to the consultation process were published on 3 July 2013.

Officials in my Department maintain regular and ongoing contact with the Irish language community in Northern Ireland including those involved in cross community Irish language activity. I will continue to press in my discussions with the Northern Ireland Executive the urgent need to address this issue and to legislate for an Irish Language Act. Officials in my Department will continue to monitor this matter in their ongoing contacts with the Northern Ireland Office.